Social Security Q&A Part 12

Question: What is the benefit amount a spouse may be entitled to receive?
Answer: If you are eligible for both your own retirement benefit and for benefits as a spouse, we will always pay you benefits based on your record first. If your benefit as a spouse is higher than your retirement benefit, you will receive a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse’s benefits. A spouse generally receives one-half of the retired worker’s full benefit unless the spouse begins collecting benefits before full retirement age. If the spouse begins collecting benefits before full retirement age, the amount of the spouse’s benefit is reduced by a percentage based on the number of months before he or she reaches full retirement age. For example, based on the full retirement age of 66, if a spouse begins collecting benefits:

  • At age 65, the benefit amount would be about 46 percent of the retired worker’s full benefit;
  • At age 64, it would be about 42 percent;
  • At age 63, 37.5 percent; and
  • At age 62, 35 percent.

However, if a spouse is taking care of a child who is either under age 16 or disabled and receives Social Security benefits on the same record, a spouse will get full benefits, regardless of age. Learn more by reading our Retirement publication at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10035.html.
Question: I have been getting Social Security disability benefits for many years. I’m about to hit my full retirement age. What will happen to my disability benefits?
Answer: When you reach “full retirement age” we will switch you from disability to retirement benefits. But you won’t even notice the change because your benefit amount will stay the same. It’s just that when you reach retirement age, we consider you to be a “retiree” and not a disability beneficiary. To learn more, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov.
Question: My doctor said he thinks I’m disabled. Who decides if I meet the requirements for Social Security disability benefits?
Answer: We first will review your application to make sure you meet some basic requirements for Social Security disability benefits, such as whether you worked enough years to qualify. Then we will send your application to the disability determination services office in your state, often called the “DDS” or “state agency.” Your state agency completes the disability decision for us. Doctors and disability specialists in the state agency ask your doctors for information about your condition. They consider all the facts in your case. They use the medical evidence from your doctors and hospitals, clinics, or institutions where you have been treated and all other information.
The state agency staff may need more medical information before they can decide if you are disabled. If more information is not available from your current medical sources, the state agency may ask you to go for a special examination. We prefer to ask your own doctor, but sometimes the exam may have to be done by someone else. Social Security will pay for the exam and for some of the related travel costs. Learn more about disability benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.
Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov